I’ve spent the better part of the last 50 years in the field of intellectual disabilities and the last 28 years developing a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population (aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD, ADHD, etc.). I’ve tutored over 50 individuals from northern Ohio long term (years) one-on-one in one hour weekly sessions in a cooperative learning style taking many from zero literacy skills to independent reading. I’ve logged just shy of 10,000 hours in the process.
Dr. Monica Gordon Pershey (Asst. Professor speech and hearing dept. Cleveland State University) and I have spoken all over the United States and in Canada at various academic conferences over the last 20 years and have also been published in academic journals regarding the means for acquiring literacy skills.
Although all of my students have progressed in their learning at tremendously different and varying speeds, they have all (without exception) learned following the exact same developmental progression; and considering the extremely eclectic mix of diagnostic variability among all of my students, I must conclude that I’ve actually discovered how literacy is in fact acquired.
40% of the adult population in the United States is either illiterate (15% being unable to read at all) or functionally illiterate (25% being unable to read above a third grade level).
The USA currently spends over 300 billion dollars annually attempting to clean up the societal messes caused by illiteracy: through incarcerating criminals (60-80% of all prisoners in city, county, state, and federal prisons are illiterate or functionally illiterate [and quite likely are in prison as an indirect result of the illiteracy]), welfare rolls (Housing, unemployment compensation, food stamps) utility payment support (PIPP and HEAP), hospitalizations, health insurance, decreased federal and state tax accumulations due to chronic unemployment and unemployability, homelessness, elevated school drop out statistics, juvenile delinquency, high teen pregnancies, alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, etc.).
Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams, the world’s leading authority (most probably) on literacy and illiteracy (author of the seminal text, “Beginning to Read”), did a massive meta-analytic study of American schools and adult educational programs in the 1990's and determined through statistical analysis that less than one minute per day per student per classroom in all educational settings is actually devoted to oral reading. This fact, together with teacher/student ratios between 1-25 and 1-30 per typical classroom, resulting in a rampant inability to spend one-on-one time with students, implies that real literacy acquisition hardly ever takes place in schools at all, and rarely has, but is acquired in homes where parents and grandparents spend quality one-on-one time reading with their children.
The students from poverty stricken under-privileged homes, who eventually fall within the national 40% who are illiterate or functionally illiterate, seldom acquire literacy within their homes, where most of the adults are working 2 and 3 jobs to support the household; and the impoverished homes are completely devoid of books and toys as literacy artifacts. Parents within these homes expect schools to help their children acquire literacy when this expectation simply never happens. These are the collective reasons for there being a massive 40% number of adults in this country who are and remain illiterate, as no one ever has provided them with the necessary one-on-one tutoring to become literate.
My own work and research have demonstrated that the only necessary prerequisite for learning how to read is the capacity for carrying on a give-and-take two-way conversation with another, which is at about a 3.0-3.5 mental age (M.A), just above the Piagetian group monologue or parallel play behavioral level.
If the federal government were to initiate and spend far less than the 300 billion it is currently annually spending to clean up the messes of illiteracy and begin a nationwide program of paying literacy tutors to help in the schools, the adult Ed programs, AND in special education programs, and in the prisons (etc) to tutor one-on-one those who are most vulnerable and most at risk, illiteracy could be erased in a generation; for if one can read, one can tutor, in much the same way, as if one has a license to drive one can then teach another who is learning how to drive.
If curious about my work, discoveries, history, methods, and curriculum materials, please do not hesitate to call or email. I could also “snail mail” you a flash drive which contains a great deal of my work, methods, discoveries, analysis, theories, and useable curriculum, and I am available (literally) 24-7 to help out with any questions or criticisms of the work and process.